By Joseph Gregory
So you have an extensive vinyl collection and you want to listen to your records on the go; but, record players aren’t like iPods, that’s why we love them. They don’t fit in your pocket and you can’t press shuffle. But, if not maintained correctly, records wear over time, so it’s in every collector’s best interest to back up their collection digitally. The question is how? Below, I have laid out the two primary options for ripping vinyl.
LP to PC ($50-$150)
One of the most popular ways in recent years has been to purchase a turntable with a USB port, so the table can be connected directly to your household computer or laptop. These next-generation turntables typically come with relatively easy to use software that does the LP to .mp3 conversion for you. One of the most praised and affordable LP to PC products is the Ion series, as seen below.
For the most part Ion’s have received consistently good reviews, but there are a few notable drawbacks:
1. They are cheaply made out of mostly plastic; but, they aren’t necessarily meant to replace quality built turntables.
2. “Audacity”, which can be downloaded online for free, has had some issues with mac compatibility (also keep in mind that the majority of computer complaints are the result of user error).
3. Ion’s are not formatted to convert 78’s, only 33 rpm albums and 45 rpm singles.
4. The transfer process can be time consuming; the album must be uploaded, then enhanced, and then split by the user into separate tracks.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Phono preamp/LP-USB-Converter ($150-$200)
If purchasing another turntable seems unnecessary, or maybe you just don’t like the Ion, then there is another option. You can buy a phono stage with a USB port that can connect straight into your computer. Although .mp3 files aren’t the best quality to begin with, most audiophiles agree that when ripping vinyl, this is as good as it gets. Obviously you are going to get what you pay for, but for the most part, any standard preamp will suffice. I recommend the Pro-ject brand because it is affordable, compact, has a great reputation, and its products look sleek enough for James Bond.
This is a great product, but ultimately, the success of the recording is going to depend on the quality of your turntable and the software you use with it. Therefore, you may encounter the exact same issues as with the Ion. Also, it’s considerably more expensive, but again, you get what you pay for.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Some helpful advice before you start ripping:
Don’t place your turntable on a hard surface; someone setting down a glass or even walking loudly can sound like an earthquake during playback. Wash your records beforehand; all the knicks, scratches, and pops will be recorded – a good rinse with a nice ivory dishwashing soap never hurts. Finally, a decent turntable, stylus, and cartridge can go a long way, so make sure you have the right equipment before starting the job.
Good luck, and keep those records spinning, even after they make it into your iTunes.